Connecticut, US

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has proposed a new settlement of the United Kingdom within the European Union.

The proposal comes in response to a round of negotiations by Prime Minister Cameron, raising UK concerns ahead of the upcoming EU membership referendum (“Brexit”). The stated goal of Mr. Tusk’s proposal is to address the issues raised by Mr. Cameron, while maintaining principles of the European project.

The proposal touches on four “baskets” of concern raised by the UK in Mr. Cameron’s latest negotiation talks: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and immigration (social benefits and free movement). Mr. Tusk concedes that for the proposal to be successful all parties will have to compromise.

Reactions to the “UK in EU” proposal featured heavily in the European Council meeting preparations in Brussels, with the Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders stating on behalf of the council that the upcoming EU referendum in the UK is “a political event of the first order” and that negotiations are an important step in securing the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU.

The proposal will be discussed this week and next week by Sherpas and Permanent Representatives of the various Member States and will be debated at the February European Council summit that will be held on 18-19 February. Mr. Tusk’s goal is to have an agreement in place at the summit.

Mr. Cameron has stated that his preferred date for the referendum is June 23, if an agreement can be reached. Soon after the EU proposal was unveiled Mr. Cameron faced two hours of questioning from MP’s, defending the proposal and saying the deal would make Britain “stronger and better”. 

This is a situation that I know many of us will be watching closely, as the outcome of these discussions has major significance for the referendum. As Mr. Koenders said today, it is then in the hands of the UK voters.

Unity of the European Union is not the only hot topic on the agenda for February European Council, as the urgency of the migrant crisis requires that the Council makes time to assess progress and implementation of measures that have already been put in place and to address immediate developments.

These are issues that continue to evolve and are being closely monitored, and I expect European unity and free movement to dominate European migration conversations throughout 2017. These are exciting days to practice in Brussels and our team remains in close contact with policy makers and government institutions. If you would like more information about any of these developments please write me at beneluxinfo@fragomen.com.